“This is within the spirit of the new evangelization, using new means and methods of communication to share the Gospel,” Clare Ward, home mission adviser for the bishop's conference, told CNA Nov. 28.
“The great benefit of something like Twitter, is that it offers bite-sized pieces of information that are immediately digestible, immediately accessible, and don't pose too many demands upon people during a very busy day.”
The service, @YoFtweets, leads its followers through the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and books of Scripture.
“We think it's the first time that Twitter is being used with a specific catechetical theme in mind; it's not just random tweets, there's a catechetical scheme behind each tweet that's provided every day,” Ward said.
“They are being offered as a resource to the Christian community...to help them do precisely what the Holy Father has asked for, which is to re- read the documents of Vatican II, to re-read the Catechism and to study it, to know the scriptures and to generally know the faith.”
Ward said that to cover each day of the Year of Faith, more than 400 tweets had to be prepared by the Home Mission Desk, “which as one can imagine was a ginormous task.”
“Even though they're just bite-sized extracts, trying to put together material...that has some sense of coherency was an enormous challenge.”
Bishop Kieran T. Conry of the Arundel and Brighton diocese, and who is chair of the English bishops' department for evangelization and catechesis, stated Nov. 27 the department hopes “that by reading the material on Twitter people might be inspired to read more of the documents, the Bible and the Catechism. The Twitter initiative is, we hope, a helpful starting point for people.”
Ward added, “It's important to see the Twitter initiative as part of a bigger picture which stems from, going right back to the visit of the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux to England and Wales that few would have predicted, in 2009.”
“Then again, the great joy of welcoming the Pope in 2010 and then all the legacy initiatives that come from that, and now the Year of Faith. Its really a good time, we've had so many positive national events that have gone on, its created a sense of buoyancy.”
The Pope's 2010 visit to England is what has “set the tone for the Catholic Church” in the country in recent years, Ward said.
“The bishops have done a huge amount of work since then to support the legacy of that visit, through a vast array of new initiatives and rejuvenating existing initiatives, so the feel here at the Conference is one of great enthusiasm and buoyancy at the moment.”
She said the Twitter enterprise should be seen in context with other initiatives, including those reaching out to lapsed Catholics and to non-Catholics.
Bishop Conry's evangelization department, she added, will have a “Come Home for Christmas” campaign this winter, similar to the American “Catholics Come Home.”
And on the eve of the Year of Faith, Ward reported, the Faith Department printed some 1 million “faith cards” and distributed them across the dioceses of England and Wales.
“They are to support to Catholic identity, to give people something to carry to give them Catholic confidence, and secondly to be used as a tool of evangelization, to have that in your wallet,” so that others can see that your Catholic faith is just as important to you as the photos of family kept also in your wallet.
“It would be used to give to someone who expresses interest in the Catholic faith.”
The Twitter initiative is of particular importance, Ward suggested, because it shows that the Church is “connected with contemporary culture and is embracing new means and methods to communicated and to dialogue with people.”
“We hope that, especially for very busy people, it will provide an easily accessible daily encouragement to grow in faith and to share it. Please do 'follow' and share it with your friends,” Bishop Conry requested.
The evangelization office of the English and Welsh bishops' conference has launched a program of daily tweets to teach the faith to Catholics throughout the countries.